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Arkansas & Tennessee lawmakers pass transgender sports bans

girls playing basketball
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Just after passing a bill that would allow nurses, doctors, EMTs and other healthcare workers to refuse serving LGBTQ patients, the Arkansas General Assembly passed another proposal yesterday that would ban trans girls and women from playing sports in accordance with their gender identity.

In Tennessee, a bill that would ban trans girls along with trans boys from playing sports in competing in middle or high school sports in accordance with their gender identity also passed.

Related: Wave of bills attacking transgender youth inspires protests all over the U.S.

Both of the bills in Arkansas await Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s (R) signature. He said he was “neutral” on the religious exemptions bill and previously signaled his support for the trans sports ban, although he has not committed to signing either.

Their sports ban applies to trans people from kindergarten all the way through collegiate sports. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge supported the proposed law — dubbed the Gender Integrity Reinforcement Legislation for Sports Act (GIRLS Act) — which would require girls who want to compete in school sports to present an original birth certificate.

Hutchinson has until Saturday to sign the bill banning trans girls and women in sports. If he vetoes it, a simple majority in both chambers of the Arkansas General Assembly would pass it, the Associated Press reports.

Arkansas has several other anti-trans bills currently in committee or chamber-wide consideration in both the state house and senate, including one in the senate that would ban gender-affirming health care for minors. A hate crimes proposal that Hutchinson supports, meanwhile, has stalled.

In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee (R) said through a spokesperson yesterday that he will sign the proposal into law as to “respect the legislature’s decision,” the Tennesseean reports.

“The Governor has been clear about concerns around this issue and the negative impact on women’s sports,” Lee’s spokesperson Casey Black said.

Their sports ban, HB 0003/SB 0228, requires schools and school sports associations serving students in the fifth grade and up to receive an “original” birth certificate from participants as well.

If “a birth certificate does not appear to be the student’s original birth certificate or does not indicate the student’s sex at birth, the student must provide other evidence to indicate the student’s sex,” the bill’s summary indicates, adding “the student or the student’s parent or guardian must pay the cost associated with providing evidence.”

This proposal also comes as the Tennessee General Assembly continues to consider a law that would allow cisgender students to sue their school if they’re not given a “reasonable accommodation” if they don’t want to share restroom facilities with trans people.

Both Arkansas and Tennessee have Republican supermajorities in the General Assembly. That means each state’s House and Senate will have enough Republican members to overturn a veto.

Depending on who signs their respective bills into state laws first, Arkansas and Tennessee are now in the running with South Dakota to be the second state to pass a law banning trans youth from playing sports this year after Mississippi did so earlier this month.

Idaho was the first when it passed H.B. 500 into law last year, but a federal court has already issued an injunction against it. Whoever follows in Idaho’s footsteps will probably meet the same result.

South Dakota’s legislature passed their ban on trans youth playing sports earlier this month, but Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has decided not to sign it, despite proclaiming she was “excited” to sign such a law because such a move would “save” women’s sports.

Instead, she’s now planning to “revise” the bill and send it back to the legislature so it will lessen the chance of organizations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and others from boycotting the state.

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